Nissan Leaf Key Fob Not Working or Detected: How to Fix

Our car keys have come a long way from the lumps of metal that used bore holes in pockets and accidentally scratched paint when you missed the keyhole. Those keys of yesteryear have steadily been replaced with keys of technological substance, offering keyless entry and keyless starting. The Nissan Leaf has been no exception to this rule. 

Common problems that Nissan Leaf owners have encountered with their key fobs include:

  • Key not being detected by the Leaf
  • Fob unresponsive when pressing buttons to lock/unlock car
  • Key fob apparently being dead and not knowing how to start the car
  • Inconsistent operation – working one day on first click, but then not on the next until it has been clicked several times
  • …and more

In today’s blog, we will be looking at how to solve these common Nissan Leaf key fob problems. The good news is that there is invariably a simple solution to just about any issue that you might have with the Nissan Leaf key fob.

Problem 1: Dying Key Fob Battery

Nissan key fob inside a Nissan car
Nissan key fob inside a Nissan car

1. Weakening Signal Strength

Are you finding that the range of your key fob is diminishing. Whereas in the past you were able to startle passers by activating the car’s features from far away using the key fob, you now find that you have to be within 20 feet of the car, possibly even closer in order to get the thing to work at all.

This is the first sign that the battery is going. Less power is making it from the battery to the signal emitter, and this reduces the overall power of that signal.

2. Multiple Clicks Needed

You may have felt quite slick pressing any button on your Leaf fob just once and it responding to you after that single press. Recently, however, you’ve found yourself pressing buttons on the fob multiple times before it will finally do the thing that you’re trying to do.

Once again, this is a classic sign that the batteries are losing power.

3. Inconsistent Results

It could be that on one day the fob works relatively well for you, opening with few clicks at a good distance, or the keyless function still working for you (see more below for keyless entry not working), but then on another day it takes longer. On the day it works less well you might resolve to get it fixed, but then you notice it works for you a few more times without issue, so you put it out of your mind.

These inconsistent results can mean that you don’t get key fob batteries replaced when they should be replaced, as long as there are enough “ah, forget it” moments when the fob works for you, you’re likely to keep procrastinating on this job.

4. You Got the “Low Battery” Warning

The Nissan Leaf cabin infotainment nav touch screen area
The Nissan Leaf cabin infotainment nav touch screen area

Finally, the Nissan Leaf is a very helpful EV indeed because it will actually warn you when the time comes that your key fob is low on battery. You’ll see a simple warning emerge on your digital instrument cluster display, so it’s very prominently featured and you won’t miss it.

If and when you do receive the warning on your instrument cluster, you shouldn’t panic and think that the key fob is moments away from death. Many users have reported that key fobs go on working for up to a month after receiving that warning, but these Leaf owners also admit that they had to place the key fob closer to the receiver in order to guarantee a connection between the key and car. So, while it will still technically work, it’s worth changing the battery as soon as possible after receiving that message.

Fixing the Key Fob Battery

How do you fix the key fob battery? The simplest answer is to just replace it, which is very easy and you needn’t employ the assistance of the dealership or any key repair people. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide, or scroll down to see a video of this in action instead:

  1. Step 1: Release the physical key from the fob by pressing the release catch on the back of the fob. Once pressed, you should be able to slide the key out from the fob.
  2. Step 2: With the key out of the way, and with the key fob buttons facing downward you can now use your fingers and nails to find an indent and separate the two halves of the main plastic casing. To prevent anything breaking, run your fingers along the central connecting line to gently separate the casing more evenly all the way around.

    Why did we say the key fob buttons should be pointing downward? It’s because if you open the fob with the buttons facing up, there’s a risk that the circuit board on the inside and related innards will actually fall out. They aren’t welded in place or anything, and sit loosely within the fob. It’s safer to open with buttons down.
  3. Step 3: Take out the battery. With your circuits secured in the downward-facing half, you can now remove the battery from the other half. If you take a look at the battery, you’ll notice that it’s a Sony CR2025 3-volt unit, circular in shape. This is important for reference when you’re purchasing a new one. They are very cheap, and you can buy a pack of 10 on Amazon for as little as $6-7. That’s a useful thing to keep at home in the drawer when you have multiple key fobs to deal with.
  4. Step 4: Put the battery in and restore the case. The battery should go in with the “CR2025 SONY” writing facing down. Once you’ve clicked the battery into place, go ahead and restore the other half of the casing, being careful once again to not allow the circuitry to fall out.
  5. Step 5: Replace the key. The final step is to put the physical key back into the fob. Your key fob is now back to working order with full battery power.

Alternatively, you can check out a YouTube video showing this process:

Problem 2: Keyless Entry Not Working And/or Key Not Detected

Keyless features of the car have really helped make accessing and starting our cars much more convenient than in the past. The key fob is essentially now acting as a kind of sensor that means we can leave the key securely in our bags or pockets and not have to juggle shopping bags, infants or other things we’re carrying to fish the keys out and either open the lock manually or press a button to open the locks.

On the Nissan Leaf, the keyless entry feature means you can just press the handle button, with the key fob in range, and it will open for you. But what about when this feature has stopped working?

The first thing is to actually go back to Problem 1 further above and explore the status of the battery. The top reason for anything not working properly relating to your Nissan Leaf key fob can be traced to bad batteries.

But what if the battery is fine? Then we have to look to other causes and solutions. The following are also possible explanations for your keyless features suddenly not working.

1. Servicing Deactivates Intelligent Lock/Unlock

Nissan Leaf side showing the Zero Emissions text
Nissan Leaf side showing the Zero Emissions text

If you’ve recently had your Nissan Leaf serviced, then there’s a good chance that the intelligent locking and unlocking setting was reset or deactivated. Many users with newer Nissan Leaf models (post 2018) have reported that their keyless locking and unlocking functions as described above were not working properly. They then went into the settings menu and found that the intelligent lock/unlock mode had been deactivated, and they suspect that was a result of the servicing.

2. The Nissan Leaf 12V Battery is Low

One more possible explanation is that the Nissan’s 12-volt battery, which powers the many accessories on the car, has run low. You can use a charger to restore it, or have a mechanic take a look and see if there’s another problem that has stopped it from being recharged as part of the normal operation of your car.

Why Does My Leaf Say That My “Key is Not Detected”?

For the “key not detected” problem, you will first see on your instrument cluster display a warning “Key is not detected.” Why has this come up? If your key is not detected, then the first thing you should do is replace the battery. If this solves the problem, then great.

If not, then the problem lies elsewhere. The next thing to try is starting the Leaf without the key remote function. If you find yourself locked out of your car, first remove the key from the fob as you would do in the first step to replace the battery and open the car manually.

Once you’re inside, press the park button, put your foot on the brake, and then hold the fob up to the “Start” button. You will hopefully hear a beeping noise and the button should light up. You can then start the car up by just pushing the button. The key fob should work normally after doing this process and the “Key is not detected” button should disappear.

Conclusion: It Starts with the Battery

As we’ve mentioned earlier in the blog, the root of most problems with the key fob is a dead or dying battery. Replacing the battery will solve the vast majority of issues with the key fob. Older Nissan Leaf models may not have all the keyless features, and may use their key fobs in a more manual fashion, but the problems invariably remain related to the battery.

If you have tried the solutions above, and are still experiencing problems, then the best solution is to take the car to the Nissan dealership to inspect possible alternative faults with the key fob that might  be beyond the average person’s DIY capabilities. Hopefully this can be avoided, however, because having to get a replacement Nissan Leaf key at the dealership can cost $200-300. It sounds unbelievable, but that’s the way it goes.

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